Boston’s Columbus statue removed, placed in storage as city monuments debate renewed

By PHILIP MARCEL Associated Press
Beheaded Christopher Columbus Statue In Boston
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, June 10, 2020, a damaged Christopher Columbus statue stands in a waterfront park near the city's traditionally Italian North End neighborhood, in Boston, USA., after the statue was found beheaded Wednesday morning. Statues of the 15th-century explorer and the Spanish conquistadors who followed him and colonized much of the Americas have not become targets for demonstrators in Spain and USA. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police and Minneapolis, USA, has sparked a re-examination of injustices and inequalities in the fabric of many societies, often symbolized in statues of historical figures have become the focus of protest around the world. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, FILE)

BOSTON (AP) — The body of a beheaded Christopher Columbus statue was removed Thursday from a park in Boston’s historically Italian North End as the city continues to grapple with controversial landmarks thrown into the spotlight anew during a national reckoning over racism triggered by the killing of George Floyd.

Crews removed the marble statue but left in place its granite pedestal. Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh has said statue will be placed in storage as the city reassesses its significance. The mayor also said he was open to discussing changing the name of another landmark that has drawn protesters’ ire: Faneuil Hall — considered the “Cradle of Liberty.”

The statue, which was found beheaded early Wednesday, was raised in 1979 but has been vandalized and beheaded a number of times over the years.

Native American groups cheered Walsh’s decision but warned they’d strongly oppose efforts to restore the statue.

Mahtowin Munro, a spokeswoman for United American Indians of New England, said local indigenous groups will also continue to call on city and state leaders to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

“We have been protesting the statue for years as a monument to Indigenous genocide and land theft, African and Indigenous enslavement, and white supremacy,” she said in a statement. “This park should belong to the people of Boston and be a public place that feels welcoming to everyone in Boston, not a place that is a tribute to a genocidal monster.”

The Italian American Alliance, meanwhile, says it will hold a rally Sunday to demand the restoration and return of the city-owned statue to Christopher Columbus Park. The alliance in a statement called the beheading “cowardly vandalism.”

As protests over Floyd’s killing at the hands of police Minneapolis spark a larger dialogue about racism in the United States, Walsh also said Wednesday he’s open to having “conversations” about changing the name of Faneuil Hall, which was built in 1742 with financing from merchant Peter Faneuil, who owned and traded slaves. His office stressed in a statement that he is personally opposed to that.

Walsh said at a news conference that “everything is on the table to have conversations about,” including changing the name of the hall, where Samuel Adams and other prominent Bostonians debated independence from Britain. The name has long been the subject of debate and was the subject of renewed protests Tuesday.

In the past, Walsh has argued the site’s connection to slavery should be acknowledged somehow but that changing the name would only serve to erase history.

The New Democracy Coalition, which has called for years for public hearings on changing the name, said the mayor’s latest comments were encouraging nonetheless.

“We don’t want the mayor just to snap his fingers and change the name,” Kevin Peterson, the New Democracy Coalition’s founder, said in a news release. “We believe a public hearing on Faneuil Hall is critical to jumpstarting a conversation on the larger issues of race and reconciliation in the city.”

Peterson and a small group of activists on Tuesday poured fake blood in front of the hall.

The New Democracy Coalition has suggested the hall should be renamed in honor of Crispus Attucks, a black Bostonian considered the first casualty of the American Revolution and whose body lay in state in the hall.

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